Mark Albright is the president of the Washington DC South mission and shares these missionary stories with Meridian Magazine. This letter comes from Elder Rich J. Harris.
If you want to share a missionary story, send it to President Albright by clicking on the “email author button” by the title of the article. Please note the names of new converts and investigators may be changed to maintain privacy.
Dear President Albright,
There are two special experiences I would like to share with you that occurred while I was serving in the Brazil Fortaleza Mission. Shortly after these experiences our mission was divided and I finished my mission in the Brazil Teresina Mission. I returned home about two months ago. My mission president at the time was President Alan C. Batt (still serving). The first experience occurred when we went to give a discussion in a poor neighborhood near the town of Barbalha.
Daniel, a member exchange, went with Elder Costa and I because he was familiar with the area. We went early because we needed to get back to Barbalha to conduct some baptismal interviews. The investigator had a lot of questions so we finished our lesson later than we anticipated.
We were walking quickly back to town in order to make the interviews on time. Daniel the member said let’s turn down this old road. I felt that we shouldn’t but Daniel knew the area better than we did, and so he convinced us it would be fine. It was a winding road that had tall bushes running along each side. We started down the road and had gone only a few minutes when a man on a bike came out of nowhere and ordered us to stop. Just then another man came up behind us and we were pinned in front and back.
The two men got off their bikes, threw them into the bushes, and pulled out a gun. They ordered us to go behind the bushes and kneel down and look down at the ground. They ordered us to give them all our money. I had 10 Reis and my companion, Elder Costa had 2. We gave them what we had, and then they asked us if we had any watches, cell phones, cameras, or anything else of value “in our back packs.” My companion said “no” even though he had a cell phone in his pants pocket. I thought, don’t be stupid; just give them the cell phone. They again ordered us to stay kneeling, and then one took the gun and put it to my head while the other man searched our backpacks. I thought my life was over.
They didn’t find anything in our backpacks so they started searching our pockets. They started with Daniel. They patted him down and came to me I stood up with the gun still pointed at my temple. They patted me down and found nothing and went to my companion. When he stood up I thought, we will be killed when they discover our cell phone. When they found the phone in his pocket, they got really angry and asked us why we lied to them. My companion said we didn’t lie since they asked us if we had one in our backpack and we said no. They never mentioned our pockets!
The men then told us to not call the cops and started to walk away, taking our phone with them. Just then my companion yelled at them and asked them to come back! I thought to myself please just let them go away! When they returned, my companion handed them a couple pass-along cards and told the two robbers if they ever wanted to learn more about our Church they should call us. They left and we were on our way.
We had to get to our baptism interview and had no idea of how we were going to make it because we needed 4 Reis (about $2.40 U.S.) to catch the bus and get there on time. We had come to the conclusion that we wouldn’t make it and so we should probably just go home. As we walked down the road towards our home, right in front of us lying on the ground was 4 Reis! We had no idea where it came from because this was a real ghetto area. Money in the open like that would disappear in minutes. We also knew we had just experienced a miracle since 4 Reis is just what we needed to get to Barbalha and back home. I know the Lord watches over and protects his missionaries.
The second miracle happened as we were preparing a baptism in Juazeiro do Norte. Sometimes the water system works at the local chapel and sometimes it doesn’t. Saturday morning when we went to the Church to check everything out, the water was running just fine through the plumbing system. However, when we returned later in the afternoon to fill the font there was no water! The system had gone completely dry! We had no idea what to do. We knelt down and prayed, asking God for directions on what to do.
Soon after offering our prayer, it started to rain! It rained hard, harder than I have ever seen it rain there before. It rained so hard that the water was just gushing down the rain spouts! We quickly grabbed some buckets stacked nearby and started collecting the water, filling up the baptismal font as fast as we could. As soon as the baptismal font full of this beautiful and clean rain water, it stopped raining and we were able to hold our baptism as scheduled. I have attached a copy of me standing by the font with the cover on top. It is such a privilege to be a part of God’s army!
Elder Rick J. Harris